The Africa Higher Education Centres for Development Impact project aims to propel entrepreneurship and innovation. Through disbursement linked indicator 5.3 (DLI 5.3), ACE Impact Centres are expected to prioritize innovation and entrepreneurship as part of their activities. Entrepreneurship and innovation are related concepts that go hand in hand. IThrough support from the ACE for Development Impact project, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) runs postgraduate programmes to train Plant Breeders at the PhD level at the University of Ghana focusing on Agronomy, Pathology, Entomology, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Post-harvest Technology, Horticulture, Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Extension. WACCI aspires to become an African Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is committed to quality assurance and is guided by the core values of excellence, integrity, commitment to people, culture of mentoring, accountability, and shared governance. Through the establishment of the Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation (KAEHAI) in 2019, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) has achieved great strides in strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation in its programmes.
KAEHAI was established by WACCI, and the University of Ghana with the aim of contributing to food and nutrition security in Africa by delivering innovations to agricultural value chain actors especially farmers and creating employment opportunities to empower the youth. The Hub also partners with strategic local and international organisations to drive agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa through entrepreneurship. KAEHAI was named after His Excellency Kofi Annan for his instrumental role in giving visibility to youth-empowering projects while serving as Board Chair for the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the institution that provided initial funding for the establishment of WACCI.
Activities undertaken by KAEHAI
KAEHAI has launched 4 impactful programmes since its inception, and these are:
- WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs
- Conversations on Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- KAEHAI-ECE Entrepreneurship Training Programme
- KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme
WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs
KAEHAI partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA to organize a five-week Summer Entrepreneurship Programme at WACCI in 2019. The initiative, dubbed “Global Startup Labs (GSL) Entrepreneurship Programme”, was an intensive course designed to take students through the process of starting a company, to expose them to relevant entrepreneurship lessons and to improve their technical skills. The GSL programme was founded by MIT to cultivate young technology entrepreneurs all over the world and the curriculum was modelled after incubator courses at MIT and covered two major topics, namely (1) Entrepreneurship & Business Skills and (2) Technical Skills. Out of over 100 applications, 29 applicants were competitively selected and invited to participate in the programme at no cost. At the end of the period, the teams pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of judges consisting of potential investors from the Greater Accra Agricultural and Entrepreneurship communities.
Conversations on Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship
As part of conversations on agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship KAEHAI hosted Mr. Alhassan Andani, CEO and Executive Director of Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd, during its maiden edition in October 2020. This first edition featured theaward-winning journalist (Mr. Joseph Opoku Gakpo) as host of the discussion between Mr. Andani and Professor Eric Danquah, Director of WACCI, on the topic: Funding Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Scientific Innovations: The Role of the Private Sector, Government and Philanthropic Organizations. The programme forms part of a series of planned agricultural policy dialogues initiated to host agribusiness executives, policymakers, politicians, the diplomatic corps, and other influential stakeholders to discuss issues on the transformation of agriculture in Ghana.
KAEHAI-ECE Entrepreneurship Training Programme
KAEHAI in collaboration with the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE) from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, organized a five-day Entrepreneurship Training Programme in 2021. This programme was developed with the aim of introducing the basic principles and concepts underlying the entrepreneurship process to empower students, young graduates and new entrepreneurs to apply these to their entrepreneurial projects and startups. The curriculum was developed by select faculty from the WACCI, University of Ghana Business School, Crop Science and Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics Departments of the University of Ghana in collaboration with the ECE and the Dutch Centers for Entrepreneurship (DutchCE) following a six-week virtual Entrepreneurship Skills “Train the trainer” workshop. Twenty-four students from the above-mentioned units of the University of Ghana participated in the programme. The programme wrapped up with a Pitch Day competition, during which nine teams pitched innovative ideas before a jury panel comprising academics from the University of Ghana and representatives from entrepreneurial support organizations active in Accra.
KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme
The KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme is a 5-year project to be launched in 2023. The project seeks to address the challenge of youth unemployment by bringing together like-minded individuals from the private and public sectors to provide training and support to students. The model will create opportunities to mentor participants to become entrepreneurs with relevant and appropriate ideas, networks, and support services. This will help trained youth to drive innovation and new product development for agricultural transformation in Ghana. This will be achieved by operationalizing an incubator programme at KAEHAI, in partnership with the KGL Foundation, to train a critical mass of young agribusiness entrepreneurs. It is anticipated that there will be at least 20 agribusiness startups successfully established by the end of the project, providing job opportunities for the youth in Ghana.
Evidence of the impact of KAEHAI through the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs
Mr Evans Larbi participated in the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Lab (GSL) programme in 2019 and described it as a ‘life-changing experience’. Prior to the programme, Evans worked as a smallholder farmer in Agomeda, Accra. During the training, he and his team were ranked second during the final business plan pitches. He then proceeded to use the knowledge he gained to establish the Beit Farms Company together with a group of young graduates who had been exposed to agricultural innovations and agribusiness. In his own words, Evans tells us how the WACCI-MIT GSL platform enabled him to develop practical skills,
“I have been able to build more networks and reach more customers, as well as develop innovative initiatives that will help transform and scale up businesses along the entire agricultural value chain”.
Beit Farms currently employs 20 field workers and 4 permanent staff working on his 25-acre vegetable farm in Agomeda, where he produces onions, tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, okro, chilli pepper and sweet pepper. In 2021 Beit Farms won the Bizz Hybrid Excellence Award by the World Confederation of Businesses.
Evans also received additional training through the National Smallholder Farmers’ Summit at WACCI, and the WACCI Maize Workshop – and had the opportunity to share his experiences with other farmers and key stakeholders along the maize value chain. After the maize workshop Evans created DUAPA a mobile app to help farmers in Ghana and Africa to have access to ready markets, creditors, advisories and information on farm research activities. Following the various trainings, Evans has also registered a cooperative group called the Beit Smallholder Farmers Association with a membership of over 60,000 farmers across Ghana and 80% being women and youth. Since its establishment a little over 3 years ago, the Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation (KAEHAI) is clearly demonstrating great strides towards advancing entrepreneurship and innovation skills for students at the University of Ghana and for youth in Ghana as a whole. Entrepreneurship and innovation skills development are critical in solving the unemployability challenges faced by youth in Africa. KAEHAI is also a clear demonstration of how WACCI is delivering on the important disbursement linked indicator 5.3 as is expected under the Africa Higher Education Centres for Development Impact Project.